Style Guide: Scandinavian Design

Scandinavian In Your Space

Functional, simple, and clean, Scandinavian design represents a minimalist philosophy promoting the concept of living harmoniously with your environment. The sparse aesthetic of this design enhances an unencumbered lifestyle, and the pieces selected for interiors decorated in a Scandinavian style should be more timeless than trendy, and built for longevity.



The history of Scandinavian design

In the 1930s, designers in the Nordic countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland began embracing an increasingly functional, minimalistic style. Using clean lines and simple designs, they focused on crafting high-quality and sustainable pieces – drawing inspiration from the Nordic climate and landscape as well as the modernist art movements of the period.

Europe was undergoing significant social change following the first World War, and consumers needed products that were accessible and affordable for everyone. These ‘democratic’ designs were presented to the North American market in the 1950s, and the term ‘Scandinavian design’ was coined to describe the simple, utilitarian pieces.

Soon, the philosophy was widely embraced around the world. While the ‘golden age’ of Scandinavian design ended in the 1970s, the concept remains very popular. The impact of this innovative style is still evident in modern design philosophy, including the fields of art and technology as well as furniture and interior design.



The principles of Scandinavian design

Scandinavian philosophy centers around improving daily life through simplistic design. Nordic designers aimed to create practical domestic environments that were airy and bright enough to remain comfortable through harsh, long winters with limited sunlight. The movement’s focus on ‘need’ rather than beauty or decoration was extended to include emotional needs as well, providing a natural, humanistic side to the minimalist aesthetic.

This philosophy of simple, functional living extends beyond furniture, textiles, and lighting, with Scandinavian design influencing even utilitarian items including linens, silverware, cookware, utensils, and dishes. Organic materials, including leather, hemp, stone, and wood are incorporated sparingly, providing texture and warmth to a stark, minimalist interior.

The components of Scandinavian design




Scandinavian design features plenty of wood, covering most interior surfaces. Carpeting is limited to area rugs, as wall-to-wall carpets have never been popular in Nordic countries. Flooring is generally light-toned wood, except in the bathroom where you’ll find simple, nature-inspired tile.



Wood, primarily oak or teak, is also used on ceilings, walls, furniture, and cabinetry. Pine is also popular, but coated with a finish that greys down the yellowish tones of the wood.


Scandinavian homes typically use organic building materials whenever possible. Environmentally-conscious choices should be made for flooring, walls, roofing, and siding, decreasing the home’s carbon footprint and promoting the concept of sustainability.



Many homes also have fireplaces, as winters in Nordic countries are long and cold. Scandinavian fireplaces generally feature simplistic designs, but can be beautifully embellished with tiles.



Cool shades of blue, grey, and white are common in Scandinavian design – on walls, furniture, and other textiles. Some homes will incorporate brighter color in their accessories, bringing in pops of pink, orange, or yellow through rugs, pillows, and other fabrics.

Color is one of the primary elements that separates Scandinavian design from mid-century modern, another minimalist style that shares a priority on functionality and clean lines. While mid-century interiors include darker hues, the Scandinavian aesthetic emphasizes lightness.




As Scandinavian design follows a minimalistic philosophy, accessories are usually quite limited. The idea of ‘less is more’ allows for fewer visual distractions, and reduced clutter helps maintain the simple, unencumbered look of Scandinavian design. However, accessories that enhance the space with organic textures and pops of color can be a welcome addition to a stark Scandinavian interior – especially if they also serve a specific purpose.



With this style’s simple and functional aesthetic, it’s a perfect fit for almost any home. To learn how to incorporate more Scandinavian inspiration to your space, check out our list of favorite products and vendors who embody this classic, accessible kind of minimalism.